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Prius owners & fans

(Forgive me if you've seen this posting on other discussion groups...I want to make sure people who are loyal to only one site see it too!)

Many of you have followed the evolution of the California Cars Initiative, a volunteer effort started in 2002 to promote the next generation of clean, efficient cars -- and get car companies to build them. We've been focusing on what people variously call grid-connected, pluggable, plug-optional or plug-in hybrids -- PHEVs. We've come close, but we haven't yet persuaded a group of "Super Early Adopters" to custom-convert a few vehicles

Yet people keep asking us about converting the new Prius. After many conversations with Toyota engineers, we reluctantly accepted that the car's electric mode couldn't power it safely at highway speeds.

But something changed for us a few months ago. We'd been following the pioneering work of Wayne Brown and other experimenters: enabling Toyota's EV-only button, then addressing the challenges of adding more batteries and grid-charging to the Prius, while looking invisible to Toyota's exquisitely designed Engine Control Unit.

We kept thinking about the enthusiasm and excitement of online threads on these topics -- and on driving techniques to get well over 60mpg. And we sensed the growing potential of the organized '04 Prius owners and fans online -- now probably over 10,000 strong (see list below).

All this inspired us to a "Eureka" moment when we asked,
Why not convert Priuses so they're PHEV at low speeds and still hybrids at high speeds?

1. Many people will love an electric mode, even if only up to 35mph for neighborhood driving, slow city streets and and highway traffic jams.
2. Petroleum displacement and emission benefits will still be substantial.
3. Conversions of this hot car will get PHEVs into the national discussion of energy options.
4. Early adopters can influence Toyota and other auto makers to see a market for highway PHEVs.
5. If the demand became substantial, it will speed the development of lighter, cheaper, more powerful batteries.
6. We can sponsor an awesome collaboration between legendary ZEV engineers and pioneering garage-based inventors.
7. The results can be an unprecedented harnessing of consumer demand to bring to the world great clean cars.

We came up with the PRIUS+ campaign -- which we're announcing first to online communities.

PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT: -- EVERYTHING you want to know about PHEVs (also at easier-to-remember -- LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT -- ROADMAP to pages showing how this can happen and how you can help.

It starts with money, of course. $50K for people-time, travel and components to enable this non-profit effort to put together a "proof-of-concept" vehicle, organize events to parade it in front of opinion shapers and decisionmakers, and take orders to convert Priuses. First buyers will be celebrity, entrepreneur and early adopter Prius owners who can afford to spend $10-$20K and live without some or all of their warranty. The cost depends on how many cars will share development expenses. Our experts estimate Toyota could sell us their first run of PHEV Priuses for just $4-8K more than an HEV -- and we hope eventually they will!

To start, PRIUS+ needs your help reaching anyone in the categories of sponsors and buyers above. Pitch the idea to them yourself or send us contact info (we're very discreet). If you're simply a contented hybrid or EV owner or fan who isn't connected to the wealthy and famous, we hope you can help spread the word, consider supporting our effort with a modest tax-deductible contribution (any amount, or $95 as a Charter Sponsor). And send us your wishes (to [email protected]), since, if we succeed, your next car can be a PHEV from an established dealer in your town.

Please feel free to forward this email freely. Thanks in advance for your sending ideas and support, or for sharing your thoughts -- preferably at either the Prius-2G and gridable-hybrids groups (see below).

Felix Kramer, CalCars founder

P.S. In the photo on the CalCars PRIUS+ pages, that's my '04 Prius with the "PLUG OK" plates (7,000 miles, 48.5 mpg). I'm happy to make it available for the "proof-of-concept" installation.

P.P.S. You can get a sense of the potential of online communities that share experiences, ideas and strategies from the number of people involved and the number of messages they post. All but two shown below are Yahoo Groups (of course there are overlaps, and I haven't included Honda hybrid-related and electric vehicle, biofuel and other alt-fuel goups; numbers from early April 2004):

# of March Messages, # of Members, Group Name
4,368 1,414
4,090 1,363 Prius-2G
1,507 4,941 2004-Prius
1,229 8,363 toyota-prius
0,722 0,302
0,634 0,906
0,303 2,449 Prius Technical Stuff
0,070 0,369 gridable-hybrids

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I'd buy a PHEV if Toyota built it from the ground up to be a PHEV. I would not pay anyone to retro-fit my Prius. However, I wish you the best of luck on your project.
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